The Menial Art of Cooking

Archaeological Studies of Cooking and Food Preparation

edited by Sarah R. Graff and Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría

"This collection of case studies will be useful to students and scholars in the fields of archaeology, history, and Native studies, among others, whose research interests intersect with the realm of food and culinary practices."
—Tamara L. Bray, Journal of Anthropological Research


Although the archaeology of food has long played an integral role in our understanding of past cultures, the archaeology of cooking is rarely integrated into models of the past. The cooks who spent countless hours cooking and processing food are overlooked and the forgotten players in the daily lives of our ancestors. The Menial Art of Cooking shows how cooking activities provide a window into other aspects of society and, as such, should be taken seriously as an aspect of social, cultural, political, and economic life.

This book examines techniques and technologies of food preparation, the spaces where food was cooked, the relationship between cooking and changes in suprahousehold economies, the religious and symbolic aspects of cooking, the relationship between cooking and social identity, and how examining foodways provides insight into social relations of production, distribution, and consumption. Contributors use a wide variety of evidence—including archaeological data; archival research; analysis of ceramics, fauna, botany, glass artifacts, stone tools, murals, and painted ceramics; ethnographic analogy; and the distribution of artifacts across space—to identify signs of cooking and food processing left by ancient cooks.

The Menial Art of Cooking is the first archaeological volume focused on cooking and food preparation in prehistoric and historic settings around the world and will interest archaeologists, social anthropologists, sociologists, and other scholars studying cooking and food preparation or subsistence.


Sarah R. Graff is an Honors Faculty Fellow at Barret, The Honors College, Arizona State University.

Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin.

Imprint: University Press of Colorado

Book Details

  • Hardcover Price: $74.00
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-60732-175-0
  • Ebook Price: $58.00
  • 30-day ebook rental price: $9.99
  • EISBN: 978-1-60732-176-7
  • Publication Year: 2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Illustrations: 20 b&w photographs, 23 line drawings, 9 maps, 13 tables
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: edited by Sarah R. Graff and Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría
  • ECommerce Code: 978-1-60732-175-0